Sustainability: a shared value

Foto de Ronaldo Ramos

By Ronaldo Ramos*

The concept of sustainability was created 40 years ago due to environmental concern. It now faces the challenge in becoming shared value by business, professionals, consumers, citizens and governments, going beyond the corporate arena and spreading through society. It’s meaning has expanded throughout the years and has gathered many concepts: ecological liability, economic feasibility, socially just, multicultural, renewable, recyclable, natural resource exploration efficient, conscientious consumption and respectful use.

It is crucial to corporate survival to include and keep up with sustainability issues in governance, professional development, and their results. How to apply this concept in day-to-day business actions? What measures must be taken so the partners can incorporate this shared value in a sustainable fashion?  How to assure it’s fulfillment as well as the inclusion of budget investment?

Usually, sustainability is limited to a specific business venture. It is necessary to check the environmental and cultural aspects of the area to grant advantages or to compensate the community for necessary adjustments before proceeding. The business venture must be carried out to consider the community’s needs, cultural, religious, ancestral and environmental values. A central challenge is identifying the sustainability inputs in tune with corporate strategy, presenting them to the steering committees, incorporating to operations, and permeating the concept and practice throughout the company and stakeholders.

The Brazilian companies greatest difficulties in expanding and effectively adopting sustainability guidelines is the lack of reference when returning to projects. The second edition of “The managing state of sustainability in Brazil” (“O Estado de Gestão para a Sustentabilidade no Brasil”) study, published by Fundação Dom Cabral in 2014, suggests no significant changes and that the main challenge in 2012 is still valid: to reduce the gap between discourse and practice.

Since business does not carry out sustainable ideas, the companies are unaware of the financial benefits and efficiency that could be brought to the chain of production, including its longevity and renewing operation licenses with greater ease. Governments and citizens have the duty of comprehending and applying the concept in their initiatives, attending public hearing for the implementation of business and projects as part of a fundamental education to guarantee sustainability. By these measures, it is possible to suppose that government incentives for the implementation of sustainability projects can boost business in the internal administration and their relationship with society. Contrary to transparency it is based on a systemic and long term concept.

We are now in the era of shared management and sustainability should be regarded in a chain of valued perspective. The search for operational excellence also must be understood and stimulated by domestic business as a path to bring forth and differentiate its practices and products in a global market. A company that does not introjects sustainable values will have difficulties in the internationalization process.

According to HR specialists, the company should manage the employees in a sustainable method, aiming their wellbeing, promoting health, security, and balance in the work/life relationship, diversity and inclusion, gender equality, just rewards, fair pay, promoting development, internal positive communication, open dialogue and community relations. The approach of topics associated to the concept must be rooted in the business. It is a task that requires the effective communication of business values and mission.

One of the largest annual researches in the corporate sustainability world, the “Managing State of Sustainability 2013” (“Estado dos Negócios Sustentáveis 2013”), indicates that HR is precisely one of the corporate functions least committed in matters of sustainability. Corporate treasure was classified as the least committed, not much behind R&D, Strategic Planning and Marketing. This lack of concern shown by main departments reflects the current state of underdevelopment of sustainable values.

Although CEOs consider that commitment to consumers is the main motivation factor for accelerating sustainability investments, they are generally out of tune with the motivation for the purchase of sustainable products and services. A global study published by Accenture brings out that only one third of consumers consider sustainability.

Pioneer way of thinking and managing requires business that intends to be sustainable, to have smart, creative, committed and keen leaders that cultivate the culture of purpose.  The most valued persons do not contend with fund raising and donation politics. They need meaning in their work and their surroundings. The culture of purpose can be dismembered in three stages: cultural expertise, characteristics and attributes. Also requires energy, resilience, opening and personnel truly committed to these objectives.

According to the guidelines of the best practices of corporate governance published by IBGC (Brazilian Institute of Corporate Governance) in 2010: “Corporate governance is the system by which organizations are administrated, monitored and encouraged, involving partner, board of directors, managers and management control relationships.  The good practice of corporate governance turns principles into objective recommendations, aligning interests to preserve and optimize organizations value, providing easy access to resources and contributing to its longevity.”

The board of directors is responsible for orienting the process that defines tools and management indicators, including pay, to link sustainability matters to strategy options. This posture should spread out throughout the productive chain. The public authorities and the population’s participations are essential to the society’s responsible economic evolution. The individual challenge relies in rethinking our habits and customs in a sense of giving small but certain steps towards a sustainable future.

*Founder of CEOlab